LEAVENWORTH — A proposed tax increase to fund mental health services in Leavenworth County will be placed before voters next year.
County commissioners voted Wednesday to have the county clerk draft a question regarding funding for mental health services to appear on ballots for an August primary.
The ballot question was requested by members of the Leavenworth County Mental Health Task Force.
Earlier this year, the task force submitted a proposal for addressing mental health issues to the county commission.
Keith Rickard told commissioners Wednesday that members of the task force had fine tuned their proposal.
Rickard is the executive director of The Guidance Center, a community mental health agency that serves Leavenworth County and two neighboring counties.
He said new cost estimates for the proposal total $1.164 million per year.
The task force’s proposal includes recommendations for providing clinician support to schools, increasing compensation for staff at The Guidance Center, providing a mental health case worker to a local homeless shelter and matching an incentive for the state government to invest in a crisis stabilization facility.
Rickard said he believes implementation of the task force’s recommendations could save taxpayer money in the long run.
Commissioners did not raise objections to placing the question on a ballot. But much of their discussion Wednesday focused on when the issue would be put before voters.
Members of the task force requested to have a special election in the spring.
Rickard said the United Way of Leavenworth County has agreed to provide funding for a voter education program.
“They see that really as creating an opportunity for people to help themselves,” he said.
Commissioner Chad Schimke said he had heard concern from people regarding the expense of having a special election.
County Clerk Janet Klasinski said commissioners had three options. She said commissioners could call for a special election that utilizes mail ballots. Commissioners also had the option of placing the question on ballots for the August primary or next year’s general election.
In the case of the August primary, special ballots would have to be prepared for voters who are unaffiliated with a party.
The County Commission will be required to approve a 2021 budget for the county government by late August.
Klasinski said the proposed increased funding for mental health services could be included in the 2021 budget even if the issue is not placed before voters until the August primary.
“It would be a matter of developing two budgets,” she said.
One budget would reflect the tax increase that is being proposed. The other would not include the tax increase. The outcome of the election would determine which of the two budgets is adopted.
Klasinski said there is no way the increased funding for mental health services could be included in the 2021 budget if commissioners wait to put the question before voters until next year’s general election.